Taking Sides

Taking Sides

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Movie Release Date : September 2003

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TAKING SIDES

by Ronald Harwood

adapted from the play by Ronald Harwood

Final Draft, 1988

FADE IN:

INT. BERLIN CONCERT HALL (1944) - NIGHT

A man conducting Beethoven.Air raid in progress.Bombs falling nearby.The orchestra continues to play.Suddenly the lights go out.The music stops.

INT. BACKSTAGE CORRIDOR, CONCERT HALL - NIGHT

A beam from a torch, bouncing, making shadows.An ATTENDANT, carrying the torch, hurries down the corridor. The air raid continues.

He comes to a door, knocks, opens it and looks in.

ATTENDANT

(agitated)

Dr. Furtw�ngler, the Reichsminister.

The sound of heavy footsteps approaching.The attendant turns his torch to light the way for three men in Nazi uniform, also with attendants and torches, marching down the corridor.

The attendant bows deeply as the REICHSMINISTER and his aide go through the door. The other man remains in the corridor on guard.

INT. CONDUCTOR'S ROOM - NIGHT

Candles light the room where the conductor shakes hands with the Reichsminister.

REICHSMINISTER

Dr. Furtw�ngler, I want to apologise personally for this power failure. I was so enjoying the performance. In times like these we need spiritual nourishment.

A bomb explodes nearby.

REICHSMINISTER

But I welcome this unexpected opportunity of talking to you. (with great care) When you came on to the platform tonight, I thought you weren't well.You looked tired, (a warning) Get away from this bombing. Away from the war.Yes, you look tired... (a crooked smile) Even in this light.

INT. RUINED CINEMA - DAY

Dark.ON A SCREEN: scenes from Leni Riefenstahl's triumph of the will. Over this:

A MAN'S VOICE

Look at them. Men, women, kids. Boy, did they love him. You see, Steve, Adolf Hitler touched something deep, real deep and savage and barbaric, and it won't just go away overnight. It's got to be rooted out. You know what I think? I think they were all Nazis. And let's face it, their leaders, those bastards now on trial in Nuremberg, couldn't have done it alone. It's these people, they gave all the help that was needed. Willingly.

The film changes with a scratchy music soundtrack - Wagner. SHOTS of high-ranking Nazis in an audience including Josef Goebbels, listening. And they're listening to and watching Wilhelm Furtw�ngler conducting. At the appropriate moment:

THE MAN'S VOICE

That's him.Furtw�ngler. Wilhelm Furtw�ngler.

The Nazis applaud. Goebbels shakes hands with Furtw�ngler. The film ends.

Sitting in the ruined cinema are two men: GENERAL WALLACE, with files on the table, and, beside him, MAJOR STEVE ARNOLD. A PROJECTIONIST is standing in the door of the projection room.

WALLACE

So, you never heard of him.

STEVE

Nope.

WALLACE

Do you know who Arturo Toscanini is?

STEVE

Sure.

WALLACE

He's as big as Toscanini, maybe even bigger. In this neck of the woods, he's probably Bob Hope and Betty Grable rolled into one.

STEVE

Jeez, and I never heard of him.

Wallace glances at the file.

WALLACE

You were in insurance before the war.

STEVE

Right. Claims assessor.

WALLACE

Conscientious, determined, dogged.

STEVE

(amused)

They said I was dogged?

WALLACE

Well, they say here that when you went on a case, you stayed on it. (looks up at Steve.) Now we can't take every Nazi in this country to trial, although I would like to; it's an impossibility. So we're going for the big boys in industry, education, law, culture.

STEVE

Like this bandleader.

WALLACE

(a smile)

Well, he's more than just a bandleader, Steve. He's a great conductor, a gifted artist. But we believe that he sold himself to the devil. Your number one priority from this moment on is to connect him to the Nazi Party. Don't be impressed by him. I want the folks back home to understand why we fought this war. Find Wilhelm Furtw�ngler guilty. He represents everything that was rotten in Germany.

Steve wants to rise, but Wallace puts a hand on his shoulder to make him sit again.

WALLACE

Stay put, Steve. There is some other stuff that I'd like for you to see here. Background.

He nods to the projectionist, then starts to go, but stops.

WALLACE

Oh, one thing that may be a problem. Our Occupation Authorities in Wiesbaden have a duty to help these poor unfortunates with their defence. They keep repeating: 'We must be just, we must be seen to be just.' Well, I've only one thing to say to the liberals in Wiesbaden: fuck 'em. (as he goes) You answer to no one but me. Is that understood? (to the projectionist in the door) Show him the film.

PROJECTIONIST

Yes, sir. Roll it.

Wallace goes. The projectionist starts the next reel.

ON THE SCREEN: a Berlin sequence. Bombs falling. Ruins, a city devastated, empty. Flags of the four allied nations. Posters of Truman, Stalin, Churchill.

ARCHIVE FILM VOICE

That is the hand that dropped the bombs on defenceless Rotterdam, Brussels, Belgrade. That is the hand that destroyed the cities, villages and homes of Russia. That is the hand that held the whip over the Polish, Yugoslav, French and Norwegian slaves. That is the hand that took their food.

Steve watches expressionless.

WALLACE

Next reel, please.

ON THE SCREEN: SHOTS of camp survivors. Then SHOTS of emaciated corpses being bulldozed into mass graves.

ARCHIVE FILM

Sanitary conditions were so appalling that heavy equipment had to be brought in to speed the work of cleaning up. This was Bergen Belsen.

The moment this appears, Steve rises and goes quickly.

ON THE SCREEN: piles of cadavers.

INT. MAJOR STEVE ARNOLD'S BEDROOM (I945) - NIGHT

Steve having a nightmare, twisting, turning, moaning. He wakes with a cry. He is sweating. He turns on the light, looks at a clock, reaches for a cigarette, lights it. He smokes. He stares at the ceiling.

Later:

Early morning. Cold. Steve is at the basin in his small room, shaving. A radio on a shelf.

AMERICAN RADIO VOICE

Remember, men, no fraternisation. In a German town, if you bow to a pretty girl or pat a blond child, you bow to all that Hitler stood for. You bow to his reign of blood. You caress the ideology that meant death and destruction. You never know who was a member of the Nazi Party. Don't be fooled. Don't fraternise.

EXT. STEVE'S OFFICE BUILDING, BERLIN - DAY

Steve's car swerves round the corner and comes to a halt. A small crowd watch workmen on ladders hammering away at a stone swastika above the portico. American soldiers supervise. Steve gets out of the car, carrying an attache case, and he, too, watches as the stone swastika falls and crashes into pieces on the road. One or two people clap, most just stare.

The American soldiers immediately hoist the Stars and Stripes. Steve goes into the building. The sentry salutes.

The driver of the car goes to the trunk and takes out a labelled duffel bag, cans of film, a case which holds a 16- mm projector. A small BOY sidles up to him:

BOY

Cigarettes, chewing gum?

INT. WAITING ROOM - DAY

Steve and Sergeant Adams ascending a grand, winding but damaged staircase to the rear of a spacious entrance hall. A once impressive building. Signs of bomb damage everywhere. German workmen doing repairs. American military personnel coming and going, saluting Steve, who barely acknowledges them.

They reach the landing. Adams opens double doors and they go through.

ADAMS

We're gonna have the heating fixed by tonight.

A few gilt chairs, a workman trying to repair the stove. Adams opens another door for Steve.

INT. STEVE S OFFICE - DAY

EMMI is hanging the standard photograph of President Truman on the wall. She turns to see Steve and Adams and is covered with confusion. She gives Steve a little curtsey.

ADAMS

Fr�ulein, this is Major Arnold. Sir, this is your secretary, Fr�ulein Emmi Straube. Her file's on your desk. They sent her over from Admin. I'll leave you to it.

He goes. Steve scrutinises Emmi. She's embarrassed, keeps her eyes downcast. Steve goes to his desk, opens a file, reads.

STEVE

You live here, in Berlin?

EMMI

Yes.

STEVE

You do shorthand and typing?

EMMI

Yes.

He nods, goes on reading.

STEVE

Okay, let's see. How long were you in the camp for?

EMMI

Three months.

STEVE

Says here because of your father. What's that mean?

EMMI

My father was one of the officers in the plot against Hitler. They arrested the plotters and their families.

STEVE

Your mother, too.

EMMI

Yes. She suffered longer. She was in Ravensbruck.

STEVE

And your father was executed.

She nods, keeps her eyes averted. He smiles sympathetically.

STEVE

I'm gonna call you Emmi, you're gonna call me Steve. Okay?

No response.

STEVE

I got a list of stuff here I'd like you to get for me.

He searches his pockets.

ADAMS

If you need anything, let me know.

EMMI

Major...

STEVE

Steve.

EMMI

There have been messages for you. (She consults the pad.) A Lieutenant David Wills called from the Allied Kommandatura Cultural Affairs office in Wiesbaden. I don't know who he is.

Steve starts to unpack his attache case.

EMMI

Then there have been three calls from Dr. Furtw�ngler wanting to know when you wish to see him. I did not speak to him personally...

She hands Steve a typewritten sheet. He ignores it, finds a list which he hands to her. He waits for her to read, then:

STEVE

Think you can get me any of that?

EMMI

(pleased)

Oh yes, Major, I have recordings of all his symphonies. I kept them safe during the bombing. My favourite is the Seventh Symphony.

STEVE

Mine's the Eleventh.

EMMI

(puzzled)

But... he only wrote nine, Major.

STEVE

I'm kidding, Emmi. What about a record player? You have that, too?

EMMI

No. Ours was damaged.

STEVE

(surveys the room)

What's in those files?

EMMI

The names of the members of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra since 1934 together with their questionnaires.Major, what am I to tell Dr. Furtw�ngler?

STEVE

You tell him nothing, Emmi. If he calls again, you say you know nothing. We're gonna keep him waiting while I get acquainted with his case and with the witnesses. And, God help me, with Beethoven.

He smiles. She tries to smile back.

EXT. FLEA MARKET, BERLIN - DAY

Freezing weather. A narrow street, crowded, busy, noisy. Some makeshift stalls set out, trestle tables, open suitcases, people buying and selling every imaginable commodity.

Emmi wanders through the crowd, passing a violinist, Helmuth Rode, wrapped up against the cold, playing Handel's Air on a G String, a bowl for money at his feet. A passer-by drops a cigarette butt in it.Immediately, Rode retrieves the butt.

Emmi comes to a stall selling piles of gramophone records. She asks the stallholder a question. He points to another stall across the way.

INT. STEVE'S OFFICE - DAY

Steve at his desk, paging through files. A knock on the door.

STEVE

Yeah.

Lieutenant DAVID WILLS, aged twenty-four, enters, comes to Steve's desk, stands to attention, salutes.

DAVID

Lieutenant Wills reporting to Major Arnold. Sir.

STEVE

For Chrissakes I hate that shit, cut it out.

DAVID

I'm very sorry.

STEVE

I'm Steve. What's your name?

DAVID

David. David Wills. I'm your liaison officer with the Allied Kommandatura Cultural Affairs Committee. Sir.

STEVE

Sounds a lot of run. (studies David.) So they sent the big guns to check up on me. We recruiting children now?

DAVID

(smiles')

I guess so, sir.

STEVE

You call me sir again and I'll make you listen to Beethoven.

David half-smiles.

STEVE

Where you from, David?

DAVID

was born here, in Leipzig. I escaped in '36. My parents, they sent me to my uncle in Philadelphia. They were to follow. But they delayed and...

Breaks off. Nothing from Steve.

DAVID

Our family name was Weill. But that doesn't sound well in English. My uncle changed it to Wills and...

The door opens and Emmi enters carrying a record player, sees David and starts to back out.

EMMI

I'm sorry.

STEVE

Come in, Emmi, this is your office, too. Emmi, this is Lieutenant David Wills.

They nod briefly.

STEVE

He is here to watch over us.

A flick from Emmi.

STEVE

I guess you admire musicians.

DAVID

Some.

STEVE

Don't. This is like a criminal investigation, David. Musicians, morticians, doctors, lawyers, butchers, clerks. They're all the same.

For Emmi's benefit too. She becomes still, listens.

STEVE

We have a duty, a moral duty.

David takes a few files, sits and starts to look through them. Steve returns to his files. Emmi, by now, has put on a record and starts to play it: the opening of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony blasts out.

The two men look up, startled. Emmi beams:

EMMI

It works!Hallelujah!

INT. STEVE'S OFFICE - DAY

Emmi at the door. Steve at his desk. David present.

EMMI

Herr Rudolf Werner.

WERNER enters, bows to Steve and David. Emmi goes to her desk.

STEVE

Sit down, Werner.

Indicates the upright chair; Werner sits.

STEVE

I want you to understand why you're here. This is an investigation into Wilhelm Furtw�ngler, former Prussian Privy Councillor, banned from public life under Control Council Directive No 24 and who's applied to come before the Tribunal of Artists of the Denazification Commission. I'm interested in what he was up to from 1933 to the end of the war, understood?

Werner nods.

STEVE

Rudolf Otto Werner. Wind section since 1936. What instrument did you play?

WERNER

First oboe.

STEVE

I have your questionnaire here. It says you were never a member of the Nazi Party.

WERNER

Absolutely not.

Long silence; Steve watches him. Werner is made more anxious. At last, in a rush:

WERNER

No, I was never a Nazi, I have no interest in politics, I'm a musician -

STEVE

Hey, hey, slow up, Fraulein Straube has to take down what you say.

Werner swivels round to look at Emmi.

WERNER

Straube? Any relation to Colonel Joachim Straube?

EMMI

My father.

WERNER

It's a great honour to meet you, Fraulein. Your father was a great patriot.

Brief silence.

WERNER

Dr. Furtw�ngler is a great musician. He actively opposed the Nazis and later on he helped many Jews to escape.

STEVE

Then how do you explain him being made a Prussian Privy Councillor?

WERNER

It was Hermann Goering. I was told he just made the maestro his Privy Councillor, no questions asked. Although Dr. Furtw�ngler stood up to him. And to Dr. Goebbels.

STEVE

He also conducted for Hitler, didn't he?